An interesting piece, “Start-up Lessons Learned from Warren Buffett” that analyzes why Buffett’s annual letter to shareholders is an example of masterful communication. Turns out these are great pieces of advice for writing college essays, too.
Here are the points the article raises, along with my college essay version of the advice.
1. Converse like a real human being.
Buffett doesn’t hide behind business-speak–he just writes clearly, as if he were talking to you over lunch. He could sound like one of the world’s foremost authorities on investment (he is), but instead just goes for a conversational tone. That’s exactly how you should write your college essays. No kid in the history of kid-dom has ever said to a friend, “Participating in the ASB has taught me valuable lessons about working well with others.” Don’t hide behind college-essay-speak. Just say it.
2. Admit mistakes and move on.
Buffett’s been wrong before. But when he makes mistakes, even big ones, he doesn’t make excuses. He accepts responsibility and then moves on. A lot really successful people today made dopey mistakes when they were teenagers. If you’ve done the same, you’re in good company. But don’t blame other people or try to explain away your failures. Accept responsibility, learn what you can, and then move on to bigger and better things.
3. The power of humor in business.
Buffett knows how to entertain a reader with lines like,
“Charlie and I enjoy issuing Berkshire stock about as much as we relish prepping for a colonoscopy.”
You don’t necessarily have to be funny in your college essays. But you do have to entertain your reader. Admissions officers are tired and bored during admissions season. You have to do your part to hold their attention. Good writers know how to do that with lines like these, courtesy of some of our Collegewise kids.
“Even with all its problems, my car has never stalled or failed to get me where I want to go. When I went to crash a sorority beach party with some friends, the car (thank god) made the whole trip”
“I was the only girl on the cross country team who had a 12 year-old brother at my races yelling, ‘Run faster! You’re fat!'”
“I had a knack for business at age 10. That’s when the snow cone empire first took off. “
Take the advice or leave it. But remember that Buffett is worth 47 billion dollars.